Consumer Alert: Here’s why the worst gas prices are yet to come in Rochester and across the country

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — On Tuesday President Biden banned the import of Russian oil and energy products and he told Americans to be prepared for more pain at the pump, calling it “Putin’s price hike.”

But the U.S. doesn’t get much of its oil from Russia. According to the energy information administration, only 8 percent of the oil and refined products America imports are from Russia. And of that, only 3% is crude oil. But the price of oil is set at a global level, and any disruption affects the price all across the globe.

On Tuesday long lines snaked through the parking lot of Costco as folks waited as long as 30 minutes to get $4 gas. That’s because in Rochester, the average price of gas on Tuesday was $4.33, 9 cents higher than Monday. And that hike happened before the president announced a ban on Russian oil.

"[The] U.S. before today [Tuesday] have already cut off the flow of Russian oil. So this is already having a profound impact,” said Patrick De Haan, the chief petroleum analyst for Gas Buddy. “Refineries are buying oil from oil-producing nations but now they’re having to go elsewhere."

But the question is why? Since 2018, the U.S. has been the biggest oil producer in the world. The answer lies in the kind of oil we produce. More than two decades ago, many U.S. refineries invested in equipment that processed heavy low quality crude, commonly called sour crude, more efficiently and cheaply. Then the fracking boom hit, and that crude is a light higher-quality crude, commonly called sweet crude.

Much of that sweet crude is being produced in Texas in the southeastern part of the state as well as the Permian Basin. And a whole lot of oil is being refined on the Gulf Coast of Texas. Here’s the irony. Many of those Gulf Coast refineries can’t process light crude coming from their own state.

So they import the low-quality (sour) crude from countries like Canada and Saudi Arabia, and the U.S. exports the light crude to Europe, leaving us all tethered in trade.

"This is a global commodity, so everyone feels the effects of it. When we have a hurricane that knocks out U.S. oil production, prices don’t just go up in the U.S, they go up globally as well. And that’s because we’re all tied together,” De Haan said.

Many of you are likely asking this important question. Why don’t refineries just retrofit equipment to process light crude so we can keep that oil in the U.S? The answer is simple: money. It costs billions to retrofit refineries that they just invested billions in just 20 years ago. So in the short term, it’s cheaper to just import it.

Here’s some good news—kind of. The chief analyst at GasBuddy predicts gas is going to keep going up but likely a bit more slowly now.

Two things you can do today: Slow down, and check your tire pressure. Doing both can get you more miles per tank.

With the help of Consumer Reports, Here’s Deanna’s Do List for saving at the pump:

  • Stay at half. That gives you the flexibility to stop when you see the cheapest gas, not when you absolutely have to get it.
  • Combine trips. I always fill up my tank after church because it’s closer to Costco than my house.
  • Drive evenly. Consumer Reports tests found that hard braking and acceleration can reduce your gas economy by up to 3 mpg.
  • Buy Top Tier gas. The detergents in it are easier on your engine and increase fuel economy. TOP TIER
  • Skip premium. Unless your car says premium is required, you get little benefit from premium gas. You can find your car’s octane requirements on the fuel filler door.
  • Check your tire pressure. Your tires lose about 1 psi per month. If your tire pressure is too low, your fuel efficiency will be affected.
  • Use a gas app to find the cheapest gas near you.

Here are my favorite gas apps: